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Police commissioner decries 'cowardly' killer of Park Heights father

Police believe 24-year-old father of 3 may have been killed over clash with neighborhood drug dealers

Baltimore's latest homicide victim was raising three children in Park Heights. To make their home safe from drug dealers, he was building a fence around the property.

On Monday night, with chicken nuggets and french fries on the stove for the kids, 24-year-old Kendal Fenwick stepped outside and was gunned down in the street. When the children heard the gunshots, their mother said, they ran to a closet to hide.

Police believe Fenwick's effort to keep illicit activity from his home might have made him a target.

With shootings in the city continuing at a rapid clip, Police Commissioner Kevin Davis stood in the rain on Fenwick's mostly vacant street Tuesday and urged the community to help police stop the violence.

"It takes a ... cowardly, insecure little punk to do what happened here last evening," Davis told reporters.

Fenwick was the 295th person killed in Baltimore this year. The city is poised to exceed 300 homicides for the year, a mark not seen since the 1990s.

"There's something different in the air," Davis said. "You see it here: callous, highly motivated violent repeat offenders who … don't think twice about executing a vulnerable human being like our victim here today.

"This victim's not in the game," Davis said. "We need to be outraged when someone like him is killed in this manner."

City Councilwoman Sharon Green Middleton called the killing a "cowardly, cowardly act" and implored neighbors to help police.

Homicide detectives walked around the property in the 3500 block of Park Heights Ave. on Tuesday morning, taking note of the improvements Fenwick had made to the free-standing house, including yellow flowers planted along the front walk and the half-finished fence.

Records show Fenwick purchased the property with a relative in 2013 for $8,000. Many of the neighboring properties are vacant homes or empty lots where homes once stood.

Fenwick worked as a truck driver. His family does home improvement work and owns several properties, according to family friend Ivan Bates.

"It hurts," said Bates, a prominent local attorney. "Not only because I'm friends with his father and I know the kid, but because if Baltimore's going to grow and become the great city it needs to be, it needs people like Kendal who just want to live in the city and raise a family."

Tamyra Garris, who lives next door, said Fenwick had a "green hand" and tried to keep the area clean. She noted that the fence he was building would have helped secure her property as well.

Cheo Hurley, executive director of Park Heights Renaissance Inc., a community nonprofit focused on improving the area, said Fenwick's killing was "totally against what we're trying to accomplish here."

"We're trying to change the community," he said. "We're trying to give people opportunities here. We're trying to make this a livable community."

Hurley wants to see more investment in efforts such as Park Heights Safe Streets. He also wants programs that give young men opportunities beyond the drug trade.

The Northwestern District has seen 40 homicides this year, the most since 1999 — the last time the city recorded 300.

"It's disheartening," said Hurley, who grew up in Baltimore in the 1990s."The question is, what can we do as a community — Park Heights first and then Baltimore City as a whole — to give people options where they don't have to shoot other people?

"I don't know what caused this. I do know that people feel like they don't have a lot of options, particularly young African-American men."

Police spokesman T.J. Smith said investigators believe Fenwick was ambushed when he stepped outside, and that he ran away from the home in hopes of directing the gunshots away from the house where children were inside.

Fenwick had two children, a 5-year-old son and a 3-year-old daughter, with Dominique Jarvis. He also had a 7-month-old son.

Jarvis said she and Fenwick "had our trials and tribulations" — court records show a series of domestic violence-related complaints filed by both — "but he was a great dad," she said, and recalled a birthday party they had recently for their daughter.

Fenwick's boss, Kris McDowell, said Fenwick had missed work in recent months or showed up late. McDowell fired him.

Then he learned that Fenwick had been trying to juggle work with his responsibilities as a parent. McDowell rehired him.

"Everybody deserves a second chance, especially someone like him," McDowell said. "I respect that very highly. Obviously, in our community, you don't have too many men like that as far as taking care of their kids."

McDowell said he's tired of the senseless violence.

"It has to stop," he said. "I've been living here 16 years. I don't come out on the streets for a reason. I'm in fear of my kids growing up without me. All I do is work, and home. Stay home with your family."

For Fenwick, even that wasn't enough.

Baltimore Sun reporter Kevin Rector contributed to this article.

jfenton@baltsun.com

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